Friday, 3 June 2011

2011 Gruber Prize for Cosmology

The 2011 Gruber Prize for Cosmology has been awarded to the "Gang of Four", Marc Davis, George Efstahiou, Carlos Frenk and Simon White. The award is for their work on “their pioneering use of numerical simulations to model and interpret the large-scale distribution of matter in the Universe”.

As Peter Coles points out in his "blog", this group was undertaking simulations of cosmological structure in the mid-1980s, something we do routinely now. The startling thing is that they could only 32768 particles. These days, students will not get out of bed for less than a million particles, and often many more. This is because life has become easier, with prepackaged code, especially the wonderful "GADGET" by Volker Springel, and access to supercomputers, which has become 10-a-penny since we learnt how to cluster linux machines together. It's now hard to keep track of all of the high resolution simulations, such as "Millennium" and "Via Lactea", and the torrent of papers they produce.

And as computers get faster, with the advent of GPGPU-based supercomputers, it's only going to get worse (in a good way).

It should be remembered, however, that back in the (good-old) days, you often had to write simulation code yourself, whereas now, such coding skills are in the hands of a relative few. I'll save my grumpiness on the coding skills of many students to another day, and just finish by congratulating the Gang of Four.

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